Monday, June 9, 2014

These old shoes

If you walked a mile in my shoes, you’d probably regret it.
I’ve had these shoes for five years now. I must have bought them when I worked at Target as my back-up tennis shoes. Target or Wal-Mart. I don’t remember what I paid for them, but it was probably a target clearance catch. If I paid more than $15 for them, I’d be surprised.

When I bought them, they were too small for me. I barely wore them. Squeezing my size 10.5 foot into a size 9 shoe was a little rough. I always wore my white New Balance shoes my dad bought me to work in and in general these gray and blue tennies didn’t really match anything.

So these became my go-to shoes for anything that might involve me getting dirty. I didn’t want to risk messing up my good shoes so I’d always throw these on for fishing, muddy walks around the neighborhood, etc.

Now, looking at these shoes that desperately need to be tossed, I can’t help but think about all the things these shoes have seen, endured, and carried me through.  My feet began to shrink as I started working out and before I knew it, this pair of shoes became my favorite.

I had some new $150 New Balance kicks, fitted to my feet, meant for running. But nothing felt as good as my Target clearance shoes. But I forced myself to lace up my New Balance for my runs. They were expensive and the shoe experts told me they were ideal.

Even so, I still used my Target shoes for everything else, when I couldn’t risk losing or destroying the most expensive thing I owned. That means these Target shoes have been with me on every trip I’ve taken the past few years. They’ve been a lot of places and carried me through my happiest of times.

About halfway through my half-marathon training this year I was feeling really defeated. My runs were hard. My knees were killing me. For some reason I decided that switching my running shoes might rejeuvenate me and my legs. Much like switching shampoos, I immediately felt better.

So I used those cheap shoes to finish my training, and I  used them on race-day against my better judgement , constant requests from Eric to just go buy new shoes, and the advice of my running coach. I didn’t think much about it. It just felt better. I used them this past week when I traveled to Arkansas for a little mini vacation. They went camping, fishing, walked me through town, and sat by several camp fires. I left them outside the cabin, dirty and damp.

When I looked at them, I couldn’t believe they had carried me the 13.1 miles on race day or the hundred plus miles of training. They’re worn out, dingy, and just about ready to fall apart. I’m going to go ahead and buy some new shoes per the request of a dozen people, but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.
I think I’ll keep these babies around for just one more year, in case I need to go fishing, hiking, biking, farming, or ya know ….in case my new shoes give me knee problems. You never know!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The man in the red hat

Scott Bostwick is one of the most influential and inspiring people in my life. I owe a lot to him, even though I never had the opportunity to meet him.

I often think about how many times we brushed shoulders on that football field when I was in college. How many times had we exchanged friendly smiles as we passed each other? I racked my brain trying to remember if I had ever interviewed him before or asked him some question in passing. It became clear though over the course of that 2011 season, that if I had…I would have remembered.

On this day three years ago, I received the news of Coach Bostwick passing much like a lot of Northwest students and alumni, via social media. I felt a sudden aching loss for a man that I had never met. That could well be one of the many reasons Eric and I decided to produce Dream Season that year. Both of us felt an incredible pull to tell his story and follow the team and community that loved him so much.

During a time when most of the people who loved him were trying to come to peace and say goodbye to a son, father, brother, coach, mentor and friend, Eric and I were just getting to know him.  You could say that I met Scott during our first interview with his nephew, Aaron on our first day of filming. It was clear from the beginning that Scott meant more than words to Aaron and also as we soon found out, to anyone who ever knew him.

Coach B’s “Dream Season” soon became ours as we got to know his family, team, and his extended family (the whole Bearcat community). There were so many different stories to tell, but they were all united by a love for a great man and the tragedy of his sudden passing.I can tell you now that Eric and I had no idea what we were doing. I think it was a gift from God and Scott that people who didn’t know us at all, let us into their lives without question. 

“It’s cool if we come to your baptism, right Jake?”
“Josh, we’re coming over. Give us a tour of your apartment. That’d be great.”
“AT, there’s a Bostwick barbecue after the game? It cool if we join?”

Someone asked me today if there was anyone who didn’t want us to do this story. I don’t think I have ever been asked that before. And my answer surprised even myself. During an emotional and difficult time, more than 30 people said “Yes” to us when it would have been just a whole hell of a lot easier to say “No.”  Eric and I took that for granted then, but looking back I am just so incredibly grateful.

Coach Bostwick’s immediate family allowed us the privilege of getting to know him and telling his story. Jake’s family let us stay with them when we made the journey to Iowa. J.Lo’s family hung out in a basement all day as we interviewed them one-by-one. The Bostwicks? Every brother and sister, his mom and dad, Aaron and Preston all sat down to be interviewed. They all poured their hearts out to us about Scott, who he was, what he stood for, and the type of men he had raised on the football field. They talked to us without reservation, like we were family.
Who was Scott? The Coach I came to know was unwavering in his love for his family. He practiced an unconditional love for his football players and friends, the kind of love that can only be achieved with the power and willingness to forgive and move on. He was honest. He would tell it to you straight and expected you to do the same. He was funny and ready to deliver his smile in a moment’s notice. He expected a lot out of people, but wanted to live up to his own expectations.  He was dedicated to everything in his life that he loved, including Northwest football.

Anyone who knew him, knows those things about him. But here’s what Scott taught me over that year. He renewed in me my willingness to forgive. The stories of him forgiving transgressions and allowing people to move forward with him by their side, really struck me.

He reminded me that dedication to things you love isn’t just nice, it’s necessary. There was one point when we were completely done filming everything, but were thinking about giving up. Finances and emotional fatigue wore us to a breaking point. But we sat in our office (my apartment kitchen, with a computer on my dinner table), and actually discussed out loud what Scott would do.  It was his dedication that drove us to continue.

He taught me that you can’t take anything with you when you go. But the love in the hearts of all the people he touched, that will remain forever and in a sense, it’s really what you leave behind that matters most. How you live your life, matters. How you treat people, matters. That man’s legacy is eternal and it will be passed down from generation to generation.

Every time I see a cardinal, I think of Coach. It seems like I’ve seen a lot of them the past few years, but maybe I’m just noticing them more now. Either way, it’s always comforting to think about Scott kind of just watching over everyone. He’s the kind of guy I would have wanted in my corner. His family, that team, and his extended family will always be family to me and Eric.

Scott helped a lot of kids grow up and overcome life obstacles on the football field. It wasn’t any different for Eric and I. We were just two kids who didn’t know what we were doing. Scott and the people he loved, gave us a chance to learn and helped us grow up.

 I’ll always be grateful to the man in the red hat, the man I never met, who coached us through some of life’s hardest lessons and gave us the opportunity to succeed.